Writing today with the western ‘Hombre’ on – one of my favourite films. There’s only a handful of films I can watch time and time again but Paul Newman in ‘Hombre’ is one of them! Mind you, part of the attraction is the dialogue – it has glorious lines coming out its proverbial ears, and many of them belong to Diane Cilento. In one of my favourite scenes, she thinks she’s alone in an abandoned shack and is removing some underwear because of the heat, whilst being secretly and accidentally watched by Newman’s character. He does finally declare himself before it gets indecent. She asks him ‘you could at least have cleared your throat’, he replies, ‘I couldn’t, my mouth was in it’. It’s like a line from a film noir but here in the dusty, bleak western setting, damn it’s brilliant.

Now, if the film was stuffed full with smart-ass lines like that, it’d kill it dead – nothing worse than excessively smart-alec dialogue all the time. But in ‘Hombre’, Newman’s character is not known for his verbosity so when he does have a sparkling line, it really shines.

I get a bit dialogue heavy in my own writing, and it’s something I’m trying to curb but it’s a difficult line. You want your characters to have relevant, pithy words without drowing in exposition. Yet, you don’t want your characters to have such sparse dialogue that they lose their identity.


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